Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 27, 2020 / 09:00 am
The Holy See faces mounting criticism for its silence on human rights abuses in China ahead of the expected renewal of the controversial 2018 agreement. But is the Vatican’s silence strategic, and if so, is the strategy working?
It has been two years since the 2018 Vatican-China deal on the life of the Church in the country was signed. In that time, China has escalated its persecution of religious and ethnic minorities.
More than a million Uyghurs are held in concentration camps and subjected to genocidal practices of forced sterilizations and infanticide, along with anti-religious indoctrination, torture, and forced labor.
After nearly a year of pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong in 2019, China has imposed sweeping crackdowns on the most basic forms of free expression in the formerly self-governing territory.
Meanwhile, back on the mainland, Catholic bishops, priests, and lay faithful who refuse to acquiesce to demands from the Communist Party-controlled Catholic Patriotic Association remain liable to be evicted, arrested, imprisoned, or even disappeared.
Amid all of that, the Vatican has remained quiet. While speaking out on political and religious freedom abuses in countries like Belarus, Syria, and Nigeria, Pope Francis has famously declined to comment on the world’s most populous nation, and the subject of the Church’s most fraught diplomatic and evangelistic efforts.
Criticism of Rome’s silence has mounted as the September deadline for renewing the 2018 deal looms. What chance is there, some ask, of Rome applying effective pressure on China in private if they cannot do so in public?
But, while the Vatican may not be speaking out on China, the Church is not short of outspoken voices.